Leonhard Lechner, senior Sous Chef at Toronto's Fairmont Royal York Hotel, organizes and teaches cooking classes as part of the Coping in Tough Times volunteer program.
The bi-monthly workshops teach people how to cook great tasting and nutritious meals on a budget. Here are some of Chef Lechner's tips for getting the most flavour and value out of your food dollars.
Shop at low-frill supermarkets and small local grocers. They may offer fewer items and services than fancier stores, but food generally costs less.
Grow herbs. They add great flavour to food without much cost. Only have a balcony? Herbs thrive in pots.
Start meals with soup. It's healthy, filling and easy to make.
You don't need to buy expensive prepared pasta sauce. Toss cooked pasta with leftovers from the fridge such as sausage, vegetables, beans or just toss with some butter/margarine and salt.
Use bruised or discolored fruit and vegetables in soup, stews and purÃ©ed dishes. Slightly mushy apples are great for applesauce. Cauliflower that has some dark spots can be used in sauces or soups after removing the dark spots.
Salads don't have to be overly simple (just lettuce) or complicated. Cut up some carrots, celery, cucumbers or fennel and toss with a bit of dressing. Or slice vine-ripened tomatoes and drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Learn to cook with what's in your cupboard. Be creative and try new things.